3 Israelis in Ukraine freed by Russians after arrest for ‘making noise’ about war

Kumok family was arrested by soldiers in Melitopol. They told Tatiana Kumok, ‘We came from Russia to free Ukrainians from the Nazis’; she told them to ‘Google what real Nazis are’

Tatiana Kumok and her father Mikhail (Tatiana Kumok's Facebook page)
Tatiana Kumok and her father Mikhail (Tatiana Kumok's Facebook page)

Three Israeli-Ukrainian citizens were arrested Monday and then released after a few hours by Russian forces in the occupied Ukrainian city of Melitopol, the Foreign Ministry said.

The ministry said it had been updated on their release by family members.

Tatiana Kumok, her mother Vera and her father Mikhail, a former newspaper publisher, were all taken into custody by Russian soldiers on Monday.

The youngest Kumok had been sharing images and videos of the war on various social media platforms.

After her release, Kumok spoke to Israel’s Kan public radio about her ordeal. “I’m OK, my family is OK, my mother and my father are OK,” she said.

Kumok recounted that, on Monday morning, Russian soldiers arrested multiple journalists in the city, as well as her parents. An hour later, she said, they arrived at her home.

An image from a video posted by Tatiana Kumok on March 3, 2022, purporting to show Russian soldiers shooting at unarmed Ukrainian protesters in the occupied city of Melitopol. (YouTube/Screenshot)

“They told me if I don’t open up they will break into the house. They threw me in a car and took me to a base,” where, she said, she was questioned for hours in a room separate from her parents.

Eventually, she said, she was released, although the Russian soldiers kept her phone and asked her to sign a form promising that she would not take part in any future protests against the Russian invasion.

Komuk said the three Russian soldiers who arrested her were respectful and did not hurt or yell at her.

When she asked why she was arrested, she said they told her “for making too much noise in the city,” and because it is illegal to protest. She said the soldiers told her: “We came from Russia to Ukraine to free Ukrainians from the Nazis,” to which she replied that they should “go on Google and look up what real Nazis are.”

Former MK Ksenia Svetlova, a native of Moscow and prominent local commentator on the war in Ukraine, tweeted earlier Monday about the news.

“An Israeli citizen by the name of Tatiana Kumok was kidnapped with her father in the city of Melitopol by Russian occupying forces,” Svetlova wrote, adding that “there has been no word on her status for several hours.”

Kumok wrote on her Facebook page — where she wrote that she lives in Tel Aviv and is originally from Melitopol — Monday morning that “Dad was kidnapped by the occupants this morning.” Kumok wrote that her father used to work in publishing before he retired, and that other journalists in the city were also abducted.

Kumok’s Facebook post ended with the statement: “I am safe.” Kumok runs a studio for bridal gowns in Tel Aviv and appears to split her time between Israel and Ukraine.

On Saturday, the office of the Prosecutor General in Ukraine accused Russian security and military forces of kidnapping a Ukrainian journalist covering the Russian offensive in the east and the south of Ukraine.

In a Facebook statement Saturday, the Prosecutor General’s Office alleged that Russia’s Federal Security Service, or the FSB, and the Russian military abducted the journalist from the Ukrainian news outlet Hromadske last Tuesday in Berdyansk, an occupied port city in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region.

Russian forces in Melitopol abducted the city’s mayor, Ivan Fedorov, last week because he “refused to cooperate with the enemy,” according to the Ukrainian parliament. Fedorov was released after a few days, and has since spoken with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Russian forces captured Melitopol, with a population of 150,000, on February 26.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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